"Brownfields" are defined as "...sites that are generally abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial or commercial properties where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by actual or perceived environmental contamination."
The Environmental Studies Department of the University of West Florida was contracted in March of 1998 to assist Escambia County in its efforts to identify potential Brownfields within the county and begin the process of making these available for commercial redevelopment. In a joint effort with the Escambia County, the Environmental Studies Department assisted in the preparation of various grant applications to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, applications that where eventually funded. Since then The Escambia County Neighborhood and Environmental Services Department has received additional funding from various state and federal agencies, merging the Brownfield Program into its Community Redevelopment Program and maintaining a full-time Brownfield Coordinator. The Environmental Studies Department has since contracted with the West Florida Regional Planning Council to do Brownfield Surveys for the Pensacola Area and the Panama City Metropolitan Planning Organizations . All of these projects involve mapping and analysis of Brownfield areas using an ArcView 3.1-3.2 GIS format. The Escambia County maps, which are the most detailed, are now being put up on the Environmental Studies Departmentís interactive web server at http://www.uwf.edu/gis. This web site has been developed with funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration through the West Florida Regional Planning Council. For more information on this project, or to set up a consultation with Dr. Mel Droubay about your Brownfield project needs, contact Dr. Droubay at (850)474-2746 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
The work done by the UWF team and periodically presented the to the Committee was groundbreaking for this area. A method was discovered using ArcView GIS systems wherein property lines from local tax assessor files could be overlaid on digital air photography data bases as well as U.S. Census TIGER road data bases. To this same database could be added a host of other information from dozens of electronic databases as well as field material. The UWF team identified four major Brownfield areas within the urbanized area of Escambia County.
In 1998, Ms. Cunniff in conjunction with County staff and UWF faculty and students applied for an EPA Pilot Demonstration Project on one of the identified Brownfield areas, the Palafox Corridor. The $200,000 grant was awarded. The County Brownfield Committee became dormant while one of its subcommittees became active on the EPA grant. Since receiving that grant, the Board of County Commissioners has declared the Palafox Corridor an official Brownfield Redevelopment Zone, and additional grants applied for and received have included a $500,000 Brownfield Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund from the EPA, a $95,000 Superfund Reuse Pilot grant, a $150,000 EPA Supplemental Grant, and a $20,000 Streetscaping grant from the Economic Development Administration ($10,000 matched). The Brownfield Coordinator for the County (a recent graduate of UWF) has also applied for a Brownfield Job Training grant and an Urban Infill Project grant for the Englewood area, and Community Development Block Grant funds have been authorized for continuing the initial environmental audit program for potential Brownfield properties. Mr. Keith Wilkins is now the Director of Neighborhood and Environmental Services for Escambia County, and the original Brownfield Coordinator, Ms. Shawna Chandler has recently moved to Baldwin County, Alabama and Ms. Tamika Dickerson is taking her place. .
The Geographic Information Systems (GIS) techniques developed by the UWF Brownfield Research Team are now being used by the Community Outreach Partnership Project (COPCE) , a $400,000 HUD funded project wherein the University of West Florida is working closely with four downtown communities. As also by Front Porch Florida, a state funded Community Development project to work with these four and three others neighborhoods in Pensacola and Escambia County. A new University interactive GIS web site has just been launched, with various GIS projects including the Palafox Corridor Brownfield.
In mid-1998, the Transportation Planning section of the West Florida Regional Planning Council began negotiations with the Environmental Studies Department of UWF to do some Brownfield Research on a regional level. Members of that section at WFRPC had attended many of the Escambia County Brownfield Committee meetings. The U.S. Department of Transportation, one of the federal government's Interagency Working Group on Brownfields, made funds available to identify potential Brownfields as they might hinder transportation routes in Northwest Florida. With personnel from the DEP and the WFRPC, UWF personnel made presentations to the three Metropolitan Planning Organizations, Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach, and Panama City. Pensacola and Panama City accepted the funds and authorized the WFRPC to contract with the UWF to do the research. Those research projects were completed in 1990 and 1991.
Shortly thereafter, the University of West Florida's Environmental Studies Department signed a contract with the U.S. Commerce Department, Economic Development Administration (through the Economic Development Section of the West Florida Regional Planning Council) to establish a Brownfields Information Center for Northwest Florida. This Centerís purpose is to gather information about Brownfields and serve as an exchange area for counties in the region. Many counties do not have the personnel to dedicate full time to Brownfield issues, but have the need. This web site is part of the outreach of that Brownfield Information Center.